IPR is featuring some of the many LGBTQ+ pioneers and modern-day heroes to celebrate Pride month.
Essex Hemphill was born in Chicago in 1957 and raised in Washington D.C. He was a poet who was the face of the Black gay movement.
Hemphill began writing poems at age 14, He used his platform to address issues such as race, sexuality, and the AIDS crisis. He critiqued the homophobia and sexism in the Black community as well as the racism in the gay community. He reminded society that being part of a marginalized group does not mean they are unable to oppress others.
He attended the University of Maryland as an English major. While there, he and another student founded the “Nethula Journal of Contemporary Literature.”
Hemphill gained national attention after his work appeared in “In the Life,” a collection of writings by Black gay men. His work was also featured in “Tongues Untied” and “Looking for Langston,” award-winning documentaries.
In 1991, Hemphill won a Lambda Literary Award for editing “Brother to Brother: New Writing by Black Gay Men.” He also released “Ceremonies: Prose and Poetry,” which won the National Library Association’s Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual New Author Award. He was a visiting scholar at the Getty Center for the History of Art and the Humanities in 1993.
He died in 1995 due to AIDS-related issues. He will always be known for his poetry that invoked discussions surrounding the Black gay community.
Essex Hemphill — Poetry Foundation
About Essex Hemphill — Poets.org